Friday, August 26, 2016

The Weekly Sneak: You Are Who You Eat

First of all, a little notice. I am perfectly aware that the Frankenmonster of an opposition that we have is headed for a full-bull encounter with my stubborn and frightened state security system. There will be more than enough time, with Government The Fifth, to talk about it. 

So this week was the second segment about weird future stuff that I am into and I made a mistake. I crossed the streams. I wrote about food! Ugh. It has not gone well, to be honest. I love food. I love tech (what I can understand about it) and I love sci-fi. Putting the three of them together for a staid, middle-aged regional newspaper though? Was not a good idea. I blame it on the fact that I have been watching Mr. Robot. Things will be better next week. In the meantime:
"The world can feed herself and have plenty left over but we don't, because of politics and power. Tanzania can feed herself and have plenty left over but we don't because of politics, money and power. Well, you know what they say. If you can't stand them, join them? Outside of the nefarious world of terminator seeds there are interesting things going on with GMOs that are worth some contemplation. Two recent innovations that are fun to speculate about are the advances in 3-dimensional printing and the manufacture of meat grown in laboratories."

See you next week and remember that we really are who we eat. That's not a grammatical error. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Weekly Sneak: Let's All Get Scared Together

This week it is about the potentialities of CRISPR technology, except not really because my mind doesn't quite work that way. It is more a freakout about the social consequences of genetic manipulation and what the future holds. 

Heh. Okay, nothing ever works out the way we imagine it will. Leonardo da Vinci would soil his toga at the sight of an Airbus 380. Even Elon Musk hasn't been able to deliver the Jetsons' flying cars and it's 2016- we've only gotten to self-driving. We've eradicated diseases except antibiotics are starting to  lose the biological warfare race and things are starting to come back that shouldn't. Futurology is a weird and unpredictable unscience. But it is fascinating. Oh, genetically modified humans are here, people. I can't wait to see world religions handle this one:

"...okay, what's this. What is this thing? And most importantly: what does it mean for Africa, Africans, East Africans and Tanzanians in particular. Will it harm the children? Are our babies going to be okay? I do not know. Nobody knows yet. Which is why this essay is now going to turn into a discussion about the importance of education and what we think it means. We need a generation of people who might be able to answer these questions.
For the longest time we have embraced the outmoded British thinking that Arts and Sciences are separate crafts. They are not. Science, when done right, requires not only rigor and persistence but imagination. Arts, when done right, require discipline and intellect and range and of course imagination. And both of those, done right, will probably be based in a spiritual or philosophical examination of what life means to begin with."

For the record: there is definitely a good side to this technology. The problem is, well, humans. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

This Writing Life: Context Is Everything.

Here is a story, but first let me emphasize that the biggest take-away from this experience is that the people of Zimbabwe offered grace and friendliness and most importantly a wonderful sense of humor. In the few hours I spent in Bulawayo I made a couple of new insta-friends, was greeted with many delightful attempts at learning how to say hello in Kiswahili and enjoyed mutual political curiosity.*

And then I had to leave because I had foolishly stated “media consultant” on my immigration form under “occupation.” In August of 2016. In Bulawayo. Immigration wasn't having none of that mess, thank you very much. People: context is everything. If I was paying even a bit of attention, I would have put down 'development specialist' or 'NGO consultant' or any number of dubious two-word terms to describe whatever it is that I do. But... I didn't. Foolish!

On the bright side, I am now a member of the club of people who have been honored with a request to leave Zimbabwe for lack of the right press accreditation. Did I tell you about that time I went to Pakistan? Yeah. “War” stories, baby, buy me a double of mid-shelf firewater and I'll tell you some. But I am still not a journalist, even if the Government of Zimbabwe is being overly broad in its definition.

This is the point at which I tell you that the authorities took me into a back room and beat the truth out of me with a chain-wrapped tractor tyre until I confessed to having eaten my fraternal twin while in utero. In keeping with the idea that critical cranks like me are always out to vilify governments, and that repressive regimes are run by thuggish bureaucrats in ill-fitting suits.

The Zimbabwean authorities I interacted with were polite. Every refusal was issued with an occasional smile and an apology about the official's inability to help with the situation. Who wouldn't fall a little bit in love with a country where the people are so determined to practice the idea that laughter is the best medicine? Even if the laughter is sometimes only implied, due to the constraints of the circumstances?

I hope to come back to visit sometime. Perhaps when things are a little more relaxed, and maybe for pleasure rather than work. To putter around some stone buildings and enjoy a few beers with people with a deliciously wry perspective of life. Whatever might be happening politically is not something I need to comment upon- everybody goes through tough times. I'm just glad I got to experience, first hand, 48 hours of Zimbabwean hospitality.

So well-met, friends, and thank you for the street cred. Now I can hang out with baby journalists and exaggerate about that one time I was thrown out of Zim and watch them swoon with envy. As per tradition. Stay well.

*Africa: what is it with you guys and the crushes y'all get on Tanzanian Presidents? We've got three retired ones to spare, feel free to adopt one (except Mwinyi. We need him for powerwalking fundraisers). Jay Kay likes to travel:  think of all the gorgeous smiling you would get in exchange for footing his  wanderlust. Any takers? AU? Hmmm?  

A little birdie told me...

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